Access Bank is in talks to acquire some assets belonging to Atlas Mara Limited, a financial services group, in order to expand its reach on the continent. Bloomberg reports that Access Bank is interested in Atlas Mara’s businesses in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia, however, the report said deliberations are still at preliminary stages and no final decision has been made. If successful, it will mark the second transaction between Atlas Mara and Access Bank after agreeing to buy its Mozambique unit in September 2020. The deal will also leave Atlas Mara with its largest investment, a 49.97 percent stake in Union Bank of Nigeria. Zambia was listed among Atlas Mara’s discontinued operations in its first-half (H1) 2020 earnings report. “Our operations in Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Rwanda still remain classified as discontinued operations as the Group is still committed to implementing the strategic decision to dispose of these subsidiaries and continues to actively evaluate several options with the objective of completing a strategic transaction in 2020,” Atlas Mara’s H1 2020 interim report read. Atlas Mara, which has lost 96 percent of its value since listing on London Stock Exchange in 2013, is exiting markets or seeking partners in countries where it doesn’t see opportunities to bulk up or make money. The firm, last week, agreed to sell its Rwandan and Tanzanian units to Kenya’s KCB Group. Access Bank plans to be present in 22 African countries over the next five years and currently operates in Sierra Leone, Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, Zambia and Congo.

Ibrahim Shekarau, the Senator representing Kano Central Constituency says President Muhammadu Buhari is breaking the law by keeping the service chiefs beyond their years of service. There have been renewed calls for the president to sack the country’s service chiefs amid growing security challenges. “He (Buhari) is breaking the law. The law says if you are 60, you must go. It is so automatic. If you are 35 years of service, you must go. In fact, they are not staff of the president, they are staff of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and there is a rule, it is just like in the civil service. If you are an ordinary civil servant and you hit 60 years, automatically you must go”, he said. “Before you get to the point of whether they are performing or not performing, there is a question of rule of law. The military is one of several public services. It is governed by laws, by the scheme of service as we call it. In the scheme of service as it is all over in public service including the military, there are conditions on when to leave automatically. None of them [current service chiefs] have less than 35. I think the chief of defence staff has put in 39 years of service. All of them except the Chief of Defence Staff who is 58 now, all of them are more than 60 and the Chief of Air Staff has put in about 37 years, Chief of Naval Staff has put in about 41 years. “What we are saying is that even if Mr President has found them indispensable; allow them to retire just like any public service as the rules specify and you can hire them as a Minister of Defence, Adviser on Defence, National Security Adviser (NSA) or whatever”.

The Finance Bill 2020 passed a second reading on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday. The proposed legislation stipulates various amendments made to the 2019 version of the Act. The Leader of the Senate, Yahaya Abdullahi, in his lead debate said the bill proposed amendments to the Capital Gains Act and the Value Added Tax. He said Section 19 increased the penalty payable by a taxable person for non-remittance within the specified period from 7.5 per cent to 10 per cent. He also said section 28 of the Act provides penalty for failure to give notice of change of address or permanent cessation of business. He said the penalties were increased from ₦5,000 to ₦50,000 in the first month and ₦25,000 in subsequent months. The Bill, according to the Senate Leader, proposed a new section 8 of the VAT Act to cater for the registration of a taxable person upon commencement of business. He said, “The penalty for failure to register (a company) has been increased from ₦10,000 to ₦50,000 in the first month and from ₦5,000 to ₦25,000 in the subsequent months. “The new section 15 of VAT introduces a threshold for VAT compliance. “Thus, companies with turnover of ₦25 million or more shall render their tax on or before the 2lst of every month.” The senator said Section 36 (2) of the Capital Gains Tax Act was being amended to increase compensation for loss of office which was hitherto limited to ₦10,000 to ₦10 million. He said, “There is a new section 32 which provides that no tax shall apply to any trade or business transferred to a Nigerian company for the purposes of better organisation of that trade or business. “This tax exemption is however not applicable if the acquiring company subsequently disposes of the assets within one year of acquiring the same.” The Senate Leader added that Section 49 of the Personal Income Tax Act was being amended to stipulate that the mandatory requirement for tax identification number was for accounts being operated for purposes of business transactions. He said the amendments were absolutely essential to intensify the revenue generation efforts of the current regime in the country. He said adjustments were moderated, such that the poor and the vulnerable, who were most at risk, did not bear the brunt of the reforms.

Aid groups in northern Mozambique say attacks on civilians have displaced close to 400,000 people during three years of Islamist terrorism. Insurgents linked to Islamic State took over Mocímboa da Praia in August – one of a series of brazen attacks this year in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province. The United Nations World Food Program’s representative in Cabo Delgado, Cristina Graziani, said they are working to assist those in need. “The latest, official count is a bit above 366,000 people displaced in Cabo Delgado, in the province,” she said. “And that has obviously been an increase in the past six months. So, WFP has adjusted its program to try to cater [for] the needs, the emergency food needs, of these people. … Our monthly food ration covers 80% of the basic food needs of a family of five.” Cabo Delgado’s fast-growing Islamist threat was underscored when local media reported in November the insurgents killed scores of people in a series of brutal attacks. Mozambique’s state media reported militants in Muatide village rounded up more than 50 people, mostly young men, and beheaded them on a football pitch. Cabo Delgado has vast oil and gas deposits estimated to be worth $60 billion. Due to the threats from militants, though, development of the natural resource has been slow. The attacks began in October 2017 when armed men overran police stations in Mocimboa da Praia. The insurgents and military have been fighting for territory ever since, leaving up to 2,000 people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced.